Will Basque star Iker Muniain bounce back 'better than ever' from his knee injury?

Iker Muniain has been plagued by injury problems, with the latest and more serious, a torn cruciate ligament.

30th July 2009: Unable to hold back his precocious talent any longer, Athletic Club Bilbao handed 16-year-old starlet, Iker Muniain, his first-team début. He becomes the youngest player ever to feature in the first-team, leaving the bench as a 59th minute substitute. Not without irony, it comes against a Swiss side named BSC Young Boys, in the third qualifying round of the Europa League.

6th August 2009: Just a week later and on for the last twenty minutes, Iker Munian becomes the youngest ever scorer for Athletic Club, netting the all important second and winning goal against Young Boys goal - two minutes after leaving the bench.

In some ways, it feels as though Iker Munian, or the 'Basque Messi' as he was quickly dubbed for his obvious talents, has been around for much longer. Like a lot of hype surrounding any quality prospect, perhaps comparisons to the Argentine star were perhaps a little too much, whilst the player himself tried to forge a strong name and reputation, in his own right.

Muniain hasn't really suffered from the pressure and for the most part, has ignored the hype, as a key player for Athletic and in his sixth season in the first-team, with the historic Basque club. Often linked with blockbuster moves elsewhere, he still proudly wears the classic red and white stripes.

Certainly when it comes to the scoring feats of Messi, that's something Muniain hasn't quite managed to match, although on his day, he can produce dazzling, world-class displays of the talent he so clearly possesses. On his day, an artist with the ball at his feet.

Now 22-years-old and one would think, he still has a long future ahead. However, and this season in particular, there have been very worrying signs to suggest we might have already seen the best of Muniain.

Whilst Munian has made 41 appearances in all competitions, during the 2014-15 campaign, in 20 of those outings he was substituted. In a further three, he played from the bench. Just 18 encounters in which the player has managed to last the full ninety minutes.

Back problems have plagued Muniain throughout the season, leading the player to admit publicly that because of this, his performances haven't been anywhere near the standards he expects of himself. He and the club have sought various consultations, hoping to find a long-term solution.

Unfortunately, worse was to come. On Saturday 4th April 2015, Muniain was stretchered from the pitch in agony at the Sanchez-Pizjuan, following a challenge with Ever Banega against Sevilla.

Further diagnosis quickly revealed the extent of the damage done, with Athletic announcing that sadly, Muniain had suffered a break of the anterior cruciate ligament, in his left knee. The prognosis suggested he would be out of action for six or seven months.

The player himself responded in a typically defiant manner, insisting via his Instagram account, that whilst understandably upset about the injury, he is determined to bounce back "better than ever" if he can. 

Clearly, the loss of Muniain at such a key stage of the season, with Athletic still clinging to the hopes of a European finish in La Liga, plus another route open via the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona, is a massive one for the Basque club.

Muniain has made 254 appearances already in his career, and if he recovers well, could still have another decade or so ahead, to realise his full potential. The doubts will remain, but of course, they are also there to be proven wrong. Obstacles for the talented young player to hurdle.

The fight to overcome such a serious injury, is the battle immediately facing Muniain, who isn't likely to make a return to action, until well into the 2015-16 season with Athletic. His personal drive and determination will need get him through that difficult time.

Little over a week following surgery on his damaged knee, Muniain demonstrated his desire to recover, stay strong and keep himself in shape, whilst he's unable to play... working hard in the gym, with his most recent post on Instagram.

Hopefully sooner, rather than later, we'll get to see him back in action and realising his full potential, with a clean bill of health and dazzling the crowd at San Mames.


A video posted by Iker Muniain (@ikermuniain19) on

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch